Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Tonight, they leave the curtains open,
the lights on. From kitchen to living room,
they dance. Two women, bent with years,

sway in the orbit of a Bach sonata.
They move like this, as if nothing
could be wrong with the ache

to elevate, two bodies coming
so close—a single breath warms

between their lungs. They dance.

They dip and gyrate—the record warping
as each note spins its own blasphemy,

each crescendo shined into climax.

Look how they are reckless in this taming
of gravity, spilling in and out

of duende. And should she place

on the other’s ear the white lily perfected
with memory, her hands, in their need to keep

from falling, find comfort

in the waist no man has troubled—
but should, also, in this nightmare

the neighbors look in with terror

crushed on their faces, some saint’s name
fogging the window, fists pounding

the door, the sound of a match lifting

the hiss from an oiled torch, and should
in this nightmare, there be no nation
under God, but only this house

with its one lit window threatening
joy, should two women, full of nothing

but heat and metronomes, begin

to seal what’s left of I love you
between their lips—tell me

you will not forget your faith

in heartbeats, you who are human
and must falter in the presence

of such beauty, tell me you have dreamed

of lifting your left foot closer
to flight, that you, too, would die happiest

by music, by drowning in the mouth

that swallows—gladly—your song.


Ocean Vuong

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Ocean Vuong is a recipient of a 2013 Pushcart Prize. Other honors include fellowships from Kundiman, Poets House, and the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Poems appear in American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Quarterly West, Drunken Boat, Denver Quarterly, and The Normal School, amongst others. He lives in Queens, NY.